Shamima Begum: Citizenship & Birthrights
When people ask me where I'm from, I often say 'Well, my mum's from... and my dad's from...' failing to admit that I have omitted the fact that although this is true, they were actually both born in London, England in the 60s. To say that I was from Britain, or even 'british,' seemed like a lie and complete betrayal to my ancestors. It wasn't my grandparent's sacrifices seasickness that I was trying to honour, but the knowledge that they were met with abuse and rejection from the moment that they arrived, reminded them and instilled in me, that this was not and could never truly be home.
Today's decision to deny Shamima Begum her basic right to return to the UK to fight her case is yet another instance that reminds me of this truth. It made me wonder if she too had ever been asked why she didn't say that she was British. I know that some people might argue that she gave up her right to be British when she left to go Syria. In no way am I trying to condone the works of ISIL, but in response to this, I have to ask, what would make a fifteen-year-old girl from London, the multicultural city of the world, leave her home to marry a man that was committed to dying as a martyr? Truly, Britain was never her home and this begs to question if her identity and sense of belonging was stripped from her before she ever boarded the flight to Syria.
At only fifteen year's old, Shamima could not have known that she was being groomed, or that she was in fact a victim of human trafficking. But now this twenty-one year old woman is being forced to pay for the decisions that she made as a child, due to the UK's decision to punish 'terrorists' and take a firm counterterrorism stance instead of following suit of their European counterparts who have chosen to repatriate many of their citizens.
What is most unsettling about this case, is that it has set a terrible precedence and shown that citizenship is not a birthright in the UK if you tick any box on your forms other than 'white British.' By ruling against the Court of Appeal's recommendation to allow Shamima back to the UK to fight her case, the UK Supreme Court is not interested in providing the opportunity for equal justice for all.